'White House' brings big-budget bangs
By Roger Moore
Published: Thursday, June 27, 2013, 8:55 p.m.
If you see just one terrorists-take-over-the-White-House thriller this year, make it “White House Down.” Even if you saw the dour and bloody “Olympus Has Fallen,” which has a lot in common with “White House Down,” you owe it to yourself to check out Roland “2012” Emmerich's preachy, goofy, over-the-top take on “'Die Hard' at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.”
From the earnest, but earnestly funny, president in jeopardy (Jamie Foxx) who doesn't like bad guys yanking on his sneakers (“Take your hands off my Jordans!”) to the eye-rolling image of a child having a “Les Miz” big-flag-on-the-barricades moment, “White House Down” is a corker, real competition for “Fast & Furious 6” as the dumbest fun you'll have at the movies this summer.
Channing Tatum is Cale, the war vet /D.C. cop who can't convince Maggie Gyllenhaal to let him in the Secret Service. Cale has to content himself with guarding the speaker of the House (Richard Jenkins) and calling in favors to get his daughter (Joey King) a White House tour.
Then we see who Emmerich cast as the head of the White House Secret Service detail — James Woods. There's “on-the-nose” casting, and then there's casting Woods as a potentially volatile villain — TOO on the nose.
We go through the same “Olympus has Fallen” hyper-professional mercenary assault on the various security agencies that allows bad guys to crash into the White House. And we see Cale, the guy not good enough to get into the Secret Service, charge to the rescue — of his daughter, the president and the world.
These terrorists, who never miss until they start shooting at Cale, are glib.
“You just killed the Secretary of Defense!”
“Well, he wasn't doing a very good job.”
Nicolas Wright plays a scene-stealing White House tour guide who sometimes interrupts the mayhem to share a little White House lore or lecture the bad guys on the priceless artifacts they're wrecking. Emmerich makes sure there's an “Independence Day” joke, and if that's too subtle, he blows up the Capitol. Shared plot aside, “White House Down” does stuff “Olympus Has Fallen” couldn't afford to.
All of which undercuts the script's lectures about the “military-industrial complex,” the militia movement, the turf wars over presidential succession and the like.
Whatever messages they want to shoehorn in tumble aside in a blizzard of bullets, bombs, missiles and jokes. This is a popcorn movie, with an adequate hero, a comical presidential sidekick, a passable villain and too many deadlines, plotlines and punchlines to ever allow it to turn giddy.
But at least they were going for giddy. As “Olympus” taught us, playing this sort of assault with a straight face is downright dispiriting. You kind of need terrorists offering their buzzcut leader a slice of his retirement cake to set the tone:
“No, I don't want cake! I'm diabetic!”
Roger Moore is a movie critic for McClatchy-Tribune News Service.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- DVD reviews: ‘Despicable Me 2,’ ‘Fast & Furious 6’ and ‘Adore’
- ‘12 Years,’ ‘Hustle’ lead Golden Globes nominations